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Rutledge reports outside groups paid $45,000 toward her '20 travel

by Frank E. Lockwood | February 10, 2021 at 8:19 a.m.
In this file photo Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is shown during a news conference. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

Outside groups covered more than $45,000 in travel expenses for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge last year, according to a Statement of Financial Interest report received this month by the secretary of state's office.

The largest share, $21,111, came from the Republican Attorneys General Association, which describes itself as "the only national organization whose mission is electing Republicans to the Office of State Attorney General."

Rutledge, a Republican from Maumelle, served as the association's chairwoman from 2017-18.

The association paid for "expenses from national meetings and trainings including food, lodging, and travel" that were incurred in February, August, September, October and November of last year.

The filing didn't indicate the destinations for the travel.

"The Attorney General submitted all the required information for the SFI," said a spokesman for Rutledge in an email.

Some of the August expenses occurred around the same time as the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C., and the association's summer conference in Sea Island, Ga.

An expense for $2,824 occurred Nov. 9, the same day that Rutledge and other Republican attorneys general signed a friend-of-the-court brief challenging election-related rulings by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The Rule of Law Defense Fund, the Republican Attorneys General Association's public policy organization, picked up an additional $20,508 of Rutledge's expenses "from national meetings and trainings including food, lodging, and travel," including $146 on Nov. 9.

The fund covered expenses for Rutledge in January, February, September, October, November and December.

An expense of $2,815 was incurred on Dec. 9, in the same week that Rutledge agreed to sign onto a friend-of-the-court brief, joining Texas and other states in challenging the election results from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia.

Shortly after backing the suit, Rutledge and other Republican attorneys general traveled to the White House to meet with then President Donald Trump. On Dec. 11, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the case, saying Texas lacked standing to challenge election results in a sister state.

Rutledge, who served as co-chairwoman of Lawyers for Trump, also had travel expenses covered by Donald J. Trump for President Inc.: $191 on Oct. 10 and $622 on Oct. 23.

Additional travel expenses were covered by the Republican Party of Arkansas ($1,033 in August); the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defending Freedom ($1,161 in July); and the Conference of Western Attorneys General ($1,077 in January).

In addition to travel expenses, Rutledge's Statement of Financial Interest provided details about her own family's finances.

Rutledge's state salary, as attorney general, is $142,092.

In addition to that income, her husband, Jon Boyce Johnson, had more than $12,500 in income from Boyce Johnson Farms in Marion.

Officials are required to report any sources of income worth more than $1,000. However, officials do not have to disclose exactly how much they earn outside state government, only whether such income falls above the minimum amount or above $12,500. Officials also are required to report business holdings, stocks and other investments, as well as gifts and travel expenses that are paid for outside state government.

Rutledge listed holdings of more than $12,500 in an account at Simmons Bank; more than $1,000 in an account at Citizens Bank; more than $12,500 at UBS Financial Services; and more than $12,500 at Arkansas Diamond Deferred Compensation Plan.

Johnson had holdings of more than $12,500 in RNB Johnson Farms; more than $12,500 in Independent Bank and more than $12,500 in an account at Suntrust Bank. Boyce Johnson Farms had holdings of more than $12,500 at Wells Fargo Advisors/Bank and more than $12,500 at UBS Financial Services.

Rutledge is term-limited as attorney general. She and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former press secretary to Trump, have formally announced as candidates for the Republican nomination for governor in 2022. Gov. Asa Hutchinson is term-limited.

Information for this article was contributed by Michael R. Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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